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Boxing Odds and Ends: Canada’s Custio Clayton, Big Baby and More

Arne K. Lang

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You likely missed it because who anticipates a boxing event on a Tuesday, but Canadian welterweight Custio Clayton scored a nice win this past Tuesday on a show in Toronto. Ranked #7 by the WBO, the undefeated Clayton (18-0, 12 KOs) will likely move up a few notches after his eighth-round stoppage of Argentina’s Diego Ramirez who was 21-3 going in and hadn’t previously been stopped.

A 32-year-old father of five from North Preston, Nova Scotia, Clayton (pictured) is a six-time Canadian national amateur champion and was one of only two Canadian boxers to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. He wore down Ramirez with a steady body attack and now looks for bigger game. He and his manager Lee Baxter, who has been described as a walking billboard for the tattoo parlor he owns, would jump at the opportunity to fight Terence Crawford and that isn’t out of the question.

The co-feature was a dreadful match-up between Toronto super middleweight Steve Rolls and late sub Gilberto Pereira dos Santos, a 41-year-old Brazilian. Rolls, 35, rebounded from his loss last June to Gennady Golovkin, KOing the Brazilian in the fourth to up his record to 20-1 (11).

– – –

Bob Arum keeps collecting heavyweights. As rumored, the Top Rank honcho inked Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller to a multi-fight contract. “Big Baby,” 31, boasts a 23-0-1 record and has won 19 straight. He last fought in November of 2018 when he stopped Romania’s Bogdan Dinu on a show in Kansas, a fight in which he carried 315 ½ pounds on his six-foot-four frame.

Miller was slated to fight Anthony Joshua this past June 1 at Madison Square Garden but failed to pass muster with the New York Athletic Commission after a banned substance turned up in his VADA test. ESPN’s Dan Rafael broke the story on April 16.

Miller yelped that he was the victim of a false-positive: “My team and I stand for integrity, decency and honesty and we will fight this with everything we have,” he said in a formal statement.

Three days later, Rafael reported that a second VADA test from a different urine sample turned up a different banned substance and then it was reported that yet another urine sample had produced a third adverse finding. Miller then changed his tune. “I messed up,” he conceded. Indeed, he did. The huge payday he would have received for fighting Anthony Joshua went instead to Andy Ruiz Jr. who forged an historic upset.

In announcing the multi-fight deal Bob Arum said, “Jarrell Miller is serious about coming back and doing things the right way. He is one of boxing’s most unique and exciting characters but most importantly, he can fight.”

In addition to newcomer Miller, Arum promotes or co-promotes Tyson Fury, Bulgarian veteran Kubrat Pulev who is purportedly Anthony Joshua’s next foe, Germany’s Agit Kabayel, and French-Congolese contender Carlos Takam, currently on loan to New York promoter Joe DeGuardia. And then there are his heavyweight young guns: Guido Vianello, Sonny Conto, and Jared Anderson.

And to this list we may soon add Tony Yoka.

The indefatigable 87-year-old Arum was reportedly in France earlier this month negotiating with Yoka’s advisors. The six-foot-seven Parisian, the super heavyweight gold medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, is 7-0 (6 KOs) as a pro but has also had drug issues. He missed parts of 2018 and 2019 while serving a one-year ban from the French Boxing Federation for blowing off three drug tests.

If Arum signs Tony Yoka, one wonders if it will be a package deal that also includes Yoka’s wife? He is married to lightweight Estelle Mossely, herself a gold medal winner at the Rio games and currently 6-0 as a pro. Tony and Estelle are the parents of a three-year-old boy.

In the past, Arum has shown no interest in female boxers, but he’s never been set in his ways.

– – –

On this side of the pond, it’s a card that will only interest hardcore fans, but ESPN+ is airing a show on Saturday afternoon from venerable Ulster Hall in Belfast, North Ireland. The show airs at 3 pm EST / noon Pacific.

In the main go, local fan favorite Sean McComb (9-0, 4 KOs) moves up in class to take on Argentina’s Mauro Maximiliano Godoy (32-5-1, 17 KOs). Tall and rangy and a southpaw, McComb will fight at 140 pounds. This is his first 10-rounder.

In the co-feature, featherweight Davey Oliver Joyce (11-1, 8 KOs) opposes southpaw Lee Haskins (36-4, 14 KOs). Joyce, 32, represented Ireland in the 2016 Olympics. Haskins, 37, is a former IBF world bantamweight title-holder.

The year 2020 is expected to be a very big year for boxing in Belfast. By all indications, native sons Carl Frampton and Michael Conlan will both be defending their belts on their home turf.

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Remembering ‘Rocky Estafire,’ One Tough Syrian

Ted Sares

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On Sept. 9, 1978, a Bayonne, New Jersey brawler who was billed as Rocky Estafire when he was first starting out, stopped slick Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts in Jersey City giving notice that he was becoming a force to be reckoned with in the middleweight division. Watts was no slouch having split a pair with Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

”Strictly LaMotta style,” said Paddy Flood of his fighter who would come to be known by his real name, Mustafa Hamsho.

In 1980, he beat undefeated Wilford Scypion and followed that up with close wins over Curtis Parker and Alan Minter in 1981 leading to his first of two title clashes with Hagler. This bloody encounter, won by Hagler on an 11th-round TKO, left both fighters needing stiches.

“Throughout Hagler’s nonstop, 11th-round barrage, Hamsho kept coming on. He didn’t win a round, but he did take the battle of the stitches, 55-5,” wrote Pat Putnam in Sports Illustrated. “I don’t know what his corner was waiting for…The meat from his eyes was hanging down. But I can’t let that bother me. I just have to think, better him than me,” said Hagler.

More from Putnam: “When Hagler had left the hospital, the doctors were still working over Hamsho, who, until his trainer, Al Braverman, jumped into the ring to stop the fight, looked as though he would run out of blood before he ran out of heart. He was badly cut under both brows: Each wound was at least two inches long and half an inch wide. There was another slice under his left eye. He didn’t win a round from any of the three officials.”

Al Braverman, who co-managed Hamsho with the aforementioned Flood, once described the Syrian’s style as follows: “….”He’s got no style. He just wades in, throwing punches from any angle.”  He also possessed great stamina, a granite chin and incredible courage, along with head and shoulder butts, elbows, low blows, shoves, holding, chops behind the head, and whatever he could get away with.

The Matinee Idol

Bobby Czyz was 20-0 when he met Hamsho at the Convention Center in Atlantic City on Nov. 20, 1982. The undefeated New Jersey lad with the somewhat strange moniker of “Matinee Idol” and the high IQ had solid wins over Danny Long, Teddy Mann, Oscar Albarado, Elisha Obed, and Robbie Sims. Against Hamsho he was stepping up in class but he was a solid opponent for the Syrian who was 34-2-2 coming in.

If Bobby won, he would position himself for a shot at Marvelous Marvin, but Hamsho mauled and mugged the future world light heavyweight champion over ten rounds and won a convincing UD. (The rest of the Bobby Czyz story is told in “The Boxer Who Became a Bagger,” a remarkable and poignant article by sports columnist Steve Politi that first appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger.)

Wilfred Benitez

HIs UD victory over Wilfred Benitez (45-2-1) in 1883 was pure Hamsho featuring elbows, butts, and low blows. The third round was difficult to watch as the compact Syrian rendered a brutal beating on “El Radar,” using accurate nonstop shots coming from all directions. Between slips and knockdowns, Wilfred hit the deck four times.

Clearly, Benitez had faded, but Hamsho hastened the process and helped point the legendary Puerto Rican in a downward direction. Wilfred looked sluggish and poorly conditioned; he was not the same Benitez who knocked out Maurice Hope in spectacular fashion or out-boxed Roberto Duran for 15 rounds. Something was wrong.

But even in top shape, Benitez would have struggled against Hamsho with his mauling, brawling, non-stop pressure. Hamsho could make anyone look bad.  (Wilfred Benitez would lose several more outings after the Hamsho beatdown. Matthew Hilton finished the job with a terrifying KO in 1986. Wilfred’s story is a terribly sad one as he now requires constant care.)

Hamsho would lose another fight with Hagler—this time quickly and badly– and then go 6-2 before retiring in 1989 with a record of 44-5-2.

Those who were fortunate enough to see him fight remember a fan-pleasing, all-action combination of Vito Antuofermo, Michael Katsidis, Antonio Margarito, and Gene Fullmer.

Amir Khan and Prince Naseem Hamed are two very high profile, proud Muslim fighters. Mustafa Hamsho’s name can be added.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Miguel Madueno Scores His 12th Straight Knockout at Ontario, Calif

David A. Avila

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Ontario, CA — A return of fans to the Inland Empire saw Mexico’s Miguel Madueno extend his consecutive knockout streak to a dozen at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, California on Friday.

It was the first fan-filled event for a Thompson Boxing card in the “I.E.” in almost two years.

Lightweight contender Madueno (26-0, 24 KOs) of Culiacan powered his way to his 12th consecutive knockout and this came at the expense of fellow Mexican Jose Luis Rodriguez (25-15-1, 13 KOs) with a focused attack to the body.

Rodriguez was clever and tough and would not allow Madueno to overwhelm him during the first four rounds. But in the fifth he was not as lucky as a four-punch barrage to the body sent him to one knee. He beat the count but was overwhelmed by Madueno who forced referee Raul Caiz to end the fight at 2:46 of the fifth round.

“In reality I thought I would end it early,” said Madueno about seeking an early knockout. “But he could take it.”

In the co-main event Japan’s Katsuma Akitsugi (7-0) outhustled Northern California’s Eros Correa (10-1) after eight rounds in a bantamweight scrap to win by majority decision.

Akitsugi, a southpaw, and Correa both showed quick hands and good chins. But the Japanese fighter was always on attack and Correa resorted to holding from the second round on. He was never warned by the referee for excessive holding. It could have helped him get back in the fight.

Every time Akitsugi entered the danger zone Correa would grab ahold like an MMA fighter instead of fighting on the inside. While Correa held Akitsugi punched and that proved the difference as two judges scored it 78-74 for Akitsugi, while a third saw it 76-76.

“I could not box my style at all,” said Akitsugi, 23. “I’m glad I brought the win home.”

Other Bouts

San Bernardino’s Esteban Munoz (5-1, 3 KOs) knocked out Tijuana’s Manuel Martinez (6-5-4) with a body shot in the first round. He could not beat the count. Munoz had stunned Martinez earlier with a counter right. Then he found an opening to the body and delivered a right to the gut and down went Martinez. He was counted out at 1:50 of the first round.

Coachella’s Lazaro Vargas (4-0) out-worked Ulises Rosales (0-5) over four rounds of a super bantamweight match to win by unanimous decision 40-36 on all three cards.

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Oscar Rivas is Boxing’s First Bridgerweight Champ; Tops Spunky Ryan Rozicki

Arne K. Lang

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Back in January, the World Boxing Council announced that they were creating a new weight division. Tailored to boxers weighing between 200 and 224 pounds, they named it Bridgerweight. Tonight, at the Olympia Theatre in Montreal, the first WBC bridgerweight champion was crowned. Montreal-based Oscar Rivas, a 2008 Olympian representing his native Columbia, turned the trick with a unanimous 12-round decision over fellow Canadian Ryan Rozicki, advancing his record to 28-1 (19).

Rozicki, who is from Nova Scotia, out-performed expectations. Although he had knocked out all 13 of his opponents since turning pro in 2016, he hadn’t defeated anyone of note and hadn’t fought beyond six rounds. He drew the assignment when Rivas’s original opponent Bryant Jennings was scratched because of his refusal to accept Canada’s COVID protocols for unvaccinated foreigners. (A match between Rivas and Jennings would have been a rematch of their Jan. 18, 2019 contest in Verona, New York, a rather ho-hum match that had a dramatic ending when Rivas turned up the heat in the 12th round.)

Rivas, 34, was making his second start since suffering his lone defeat, a setback on points in a 12-round contest with Dillian Whyte in London. The heavier man by 19 pounds, he dominated the first two frames, rocking Rozicki in the opening stanza, but the Nova Scotian clawed his way back into the fight. Rivas had a strong penultimate round and although he had a point deducted for holding in the final stanza, it did not factor into the outcome. The judges had it 116-111 and 115-112.

What’s next for Oscar Rivas? Logically a bout with Evgeny Romanov. A 36-year-old Russian with a 16-0 (11-0 mark), Romanov was ranked #2 behind Rivas in the WBC’s latest set of bridgerweight rankings. Romanov’s claim to fame is that he TKOed Deontay Wilder is in amateur days, but that was way back in 2008.

Another possibility, and one likely to attract more buzz, would be a bout with Alen Babic. A 30-year-old Brit by way of Croatia, the colorful, free-swinging Babic (8-0, 8 KOs) has a date later this month in London with Texas trial horse Eric Molina.

The best guess, however, is that Rivas will discard the belt and go back to competing as a heavyweight. The bridgerweight title, we suspect, like many of the lesser titles, will be perpetually vacant, which likely wouldn’t trouble the WBC at all as they will gather up a sanctioning fee from a bridgerweight title fight whether there is an incumbent or not.

There were two 8-rounders offering chief support, but both were cancelled when the opponents failed to pass muster. Left in the lurch were “A side” Canadians Sebastien Bouchard, a welterweight, and Steve Rolls, a middleweight.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

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